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On the promotion of human flourishing

  1. Tyler J. VanderWeelea,b,1
  1. aHarvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115;
  2. bProgram on Integrative Knowledge and Human Flourishing, Institute for Quantitative Social Science, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138
  1. Edited by Kenneth W. Wachter, University of California, Berkeley, CA, and approved June 16, 2017 (received for review February 21, 2017)

Abstract

Many empirical studies throughout the social and biomedical sciences focus only on very narrow outcomes such as income, or a single specific disease state, or a measure of positive affect. Human well-being or flourishing, however, consists in a much broader range of states and outcomes, certainly including mental and physical health, but also encompassing happiness and life satisfaction, meaning and purpose, character and virtue, and close social relationships. The empirical literature from longitudinal, experimental, and quasiexperimental studies is reviewed in attempt to identify major determinants of human flourishing, broadly conceived. Measures of human flourishing are proposed. Discussion is given to the implications of a broader conception of human flourishing, and of the research reviewed, for policy, and for future research in the biomedical and social sciences.

Footnotes

  • ?1Email: tvanderw{at}hsph.harvard.edu.
  • Author contributions: T.J.V. designed research, performed research, contributed new reagents/analytic tools, analyzed data, and wrote the paper.

  • The author declares no conflict of interest.

  • This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

Freely available online through the PNAS open access option.

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